Sunday | December 17, 2017
About Us | Contact | Subscribe

Nation & World briefs: 10-30-17

Updated: 
October 30, 2017 - 3:08pm

First guilty plea, indictment of Trump aides in Russia probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former campaign adviser to President Donald Trump has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians, special counsel Robert Mueller said Monday, while former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Manafort’s business partner pleaded not guilty to felony charges of conspiracy against the United States and other counts.

The guilty plea by former adviser George Papadopoulos marked the first criminal case that cites interactions between Trump campaign associates and Russian intermediaries during the 2016 presidential campaign. The developments ushered Mueller’s sprawling investigation into a new phase with felony charges and possible prison sentences for key members of the Trump team including Manafort, who led the campaign during critical months, and Rick Gates, a campaign aide.

Court papers also revealed that Papadopoulos was told about the Russians possessing “dirt” on Democrat Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” on April 26, 2016, well before it became public that the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails had been hacked.

Papadopoulos has been cooperating with investigators, according to court papers, a potentially ominous sign for others in the Trump orbit who might be implicated by his statements. Papadopoulos’ lawyers hinted strongly in a statement Monday that their client has more testimony to provide.

During the daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders downplayed Papadopoulos’ role in the campaign, saying it was “extremely limited.”

^

Trump distances himself from indicted former aides

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump moved quickly Monday to distance himself and the White House from the indictment of his former campaign chairman and another aide, saying Paul Manafort’s alleged misdeeds occurred “years ago” and insisting there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Responding to news that two former senior campaign aides were charged by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating interactions between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, the president tried to shift the focus elsewhere, asking on Twitter why Hillary Clinton and the Democrats aren’t the focus of the probe.

Trump’s tweet: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????”

He tacked on this addendum: “….Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the indictments have “nothing to do with the president,” because “most” of the alleged crimes occurred before they worked Trump.

^

Manafort and Gates face decades in prison, millions in fines

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s business associate Rick Gates face decades in federal prison and millions of dollars in potential fines if convicted on all counts in a sprawling federal indictment unsealed Monday.

Manafort potentially faces up to 80 years in prison, according to a review of the federal charges and the relevant statutes by The Associated Press. Gates, who also worked for the Trump campaign, faces up to 70 years.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller could still file additional charges against the pair. If convicted at trial, the law gives federal judges wide latitude in imposing prison sentences and fines. White-collar defendants often end up serving only a fraction of their statutory maximum sentences, especially if they reach a pre-trial agreement with prosecutors as part of an admission of guilt.

Prosecutors allege that Manafort and Gates worked as unregistered agents of the government of Ukraine and the Party of Regions, a pro-Russian political party led by Victor Yanukovych. While serving as president of the former Soviet republic from 2010 to 2014, Yanukovych was closely aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The indictment says that up to $75 million flowed through overseas accounts controlled by the two Americans. Manafort is alleged to have laundered more than $18 million he used to buy property and goods in the United States. Gates is alleged to have transferred more than $3 million to accounts he controlled.

^

US court bars Trump from reversing transgender troops policy

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Monday barred President Donald Trump’s administration from proceeding with plans to exclude transgender people from military service.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the transgender service members who had sued over Trump’s policy were likely to win their lawsuit. She directed a return to the situation that existed before Trump announced his new policy this summer, saying the administration had provided no solid evidence for why a ban should be implemented.

Trump had ordered a reinstatement of the longstanding policy that barred transgender individuals from joining the military; service members who were revealed to be transgender were subject to discharge. Under President Barack Obama, that policy was changed last year to allow transgender people to serve openly.

The Trump administration may appeal Kollar-Kotelly’s decision, but for now, the proposed ban remains unenforceable under Kollar-Kotelly’s preliminary injunction.

“We disagree with the court’s ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps,” said Justice Department spokesman Lauren Ehrsam.

^

Trump vows justice as US captures key Benghazi militant

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. special operations forces captured a militant in Libya accused of playing an instrumental role in the Benghazi attacks, officials said Monday, in a high-stakes operation designed to bring the perpetrators to justice five years after the deadly violence.

President Donald Trump identified the militant as Mustafa al-Imam and said his capture signified that the four Americans who died “will never be forgotten.” Justice Department officials were escorting al-Imam by military plane to the United States, where he’s expected to be tried in federal court.

“Our memory is deep and our reach is long, and we will not rest in our efforts to find and bring the perpetrators of the heinous attacks in Benghazi to justice,” Trump said.

The Navy SEAL-led raid marked the first publicly known operation since Trump took office to target those accused of involvement in Benghazi, which mushroomed into a multiyear political fracas centered on Republican allegations of a bungled Obama administration response. Those critiques shadowed Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attacks, through her presidential campaign.

U.S. forces captured al-Imam just before midnight local time Sunday in Misrata, on Libya’s north coast, U.S. officials said. He was taken to a U.S. Navy ship at the Misrata port for transport by military plane to Washington, where he’s expected to arrive within the next two days, one of the officials said.

^

Tillerson, Mattis tell senators new war authority not needed

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior U.S. national security officials told Congress on Monday a new war authorization is “not legally required” to conduct combat operations against terrorist groups and warned lawmakers that prematurely repealing current law could signal the U.S. is “backing away from this fight.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee three months after they informed the panel a post-Sept. 11, 2001 law gave the military ample authority to fight terrorist groups and a new one was unnecessary. A separate authorization for the war in Iraq approved by Congress in 2002 also remains in force.

In testimony, they said if Congress does pursue a new authorization for foes such as the Islamic State, it’s imperative that the existing law not be rescinded until the new one is fully in place. Tillerson and Mattis also said that any new war authorization, like the existing one, should not have any geographic or time restrictions placed on the use of force.

“Though a statement of continued congressional support would be welcome, a new (war authorization) is not legally required to address the continuing threat posed by al-Qaida, the Taliban and ISIS,” Mattis said. But doing away from the existing laws prematurely “could only signal to our enemies and our friends that we are backing away from this fight,” according to Mattis.

Their appearance before the committee comes as the deadly ambush in Niger is igniting a push among many lawmakers to update the legal parameters for combat operations overseas.

^

Spain seeks rebellion charges against fired Catalan leaders

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain moved Monday to put Catalonia’s secessionist leaders on trial for alleged crimes that carry maximum sentences of decades in prison, and some of the ousted government figures went to the Belgian capital, where an official said they might be able to request asylum.

As Catalonia spent its first working day under the direct rule of Madrid, following its regional parliament’s unsuccessful efforts to create a new country, Spain was venturing into new political terrain amid an unprecedented crisis.

An early regional election on Dec. 21 is on the horizon, when both separatists and unionists will present candidates, but before that the country is likely to endure weeks of political uncertainty.

Cranking up the tension, Spain’s state prosecutor said he would seek rebellion, sedition and embezzlement charges against members of the region’s secessionist government.

Chief prosecutor Jose Manuel Maza said he would ask judges for preventive measures against the politicians and the governing body of the Catalan parliament that allowed a vote to declare independence on Friday. Maza didn’t specify if those measures would include their arrest and detention before trial.

^

Iraqi militia commander brushes off US call to disband

BAGHDAD (AP) — With the Islamic State group driven from nearly all of Iraq, U.S. officials have suggested that the thousands of mainly Shiite paramilitary fighters who mobilized against the Sunni extremists three years ago lay down their arms.

But Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who once battled U.S. troops and is now the deputy head of the state-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Forces, says they are here to stay.

“The future of the (PMF) is to defend Iraq,” he told The Associated Press in his first extensive interview with a Western media outlet. “The Iraqi army and Iraqi police say they cannot operate without the support of the Hashd,” he added, using a shortened Arabic term for the paramilitary force.

In the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, al-Muhandis led the Hezbollah Brigades, a feared Shiite militia with close ties to Iran and the Lebanese militant group of the same name. His real name is Jamal Jaafar Ibrahim, but he’s still better known by his nom de guerre, and his rise to the top ranks of Iraq’s security apparatus reflects the long, slow decline of U.S. influence over the country.

He participated in the bombing of Western embassies in Kuwait and the attempted assassination of that country’s emir in the early 1980s, for which he was convicted in absentia and added to the U.S. list of designated terrorists. But like many Shiite militants, he returned to Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Two years later, he was even elected to parliament, before being forced to step down under American pressure.

By wire sources

Rules for posting comments